A pall of smoke hung over east London on Wednesday after a fire in a builder’s yard spread to a block of flats.

More than 100 firefighters took four hours to bring the blaze in Shadwell under control but not before a column of thick black smoke, seen for miles around, signalled an emergency.

The yard contained several gas canisters along with a van, building material and shipping containers full of furniture, all of which were badly damaged, in the fire at Brodlove Lane which began at lunchtime.

A London Fire Brigade spokeswoman said: “Part of the ground and first floor were damaged by the blaze. A man was rescued from the fifth floor and 12 people evacuated the remaining flats.”

More than 30 people dialled 999 to report the incident on Brodlove Lane and authorities said smoke could be seen for several miles around. There were no injuries.